I get sent a lot of cookbooks to review, but none of them have ever excited my boys as much as Anna Ginsberg’s “The Daily Cookie: 365 Tempting Treats for the Sweetest Year of Your Life.” Anna is a self-taught cook and baker, but she’s no amateur. She’s the grand-prize winner of the 41st Pillsbury Bake-Off and the blogger at Cookie Madness where she blogs about cookies, other sweet treats and the occasional dinner dish. She has cooked on the "Today" show and onstage with Oprah Winfrey. Now, she’s added “The Daily Cookie” to her list of accomplishments.
I spent some time chatting with Anna earlier this week about her new book and her idea of the perfect assortment on an un-fussy holiday cookie tray. Anna has created most of the cookie recipes in her book, or in the case of popular recipes like chocolate chip or oatmeal cookies, she’s put her own spin on them. One of the recipes that my boys marked in our copy is “Ten-at-a-Time Cookies,” tiny chocolate chip cookies that are made with white whole wheat flour and barley flour instead of the standard all-purpose flour.
Each recipe comes with an accompanying anecdote or fun fact. The anecdote for Dec. 15, the day where Ten-at-a-Time Cookies appear, is about Bill of Rights Day. In 1791, the original 10 amendments were added to the Constitution on Dec. 15. Hence, the name of the cookie. The following day is the date of the Boston Tea party, and Dec. 16th cookies have chia tea as an ingredient.
Anna wanted the photos in the book to be simple. She wanted a photo of each cookie, brownie, or bar by itself without any other props. Because of this, the treats jump right off each page. The design of the book is clean, visually pleasant, and unintimidating. You get a feeling that you’re perfectly capable of recreating the cookies in your own kitchen.
One reason for this is Anna’s aversion to baking "fussy" cookies. I asked her to define fussy for me, and she said fussy cookies are “all uniform, cut perfectly and decorated.” You won’t look at any of the cookies in this book and say, “those will take me forever to make.”
I think this makes “The Daily Cookie” the perfect cookbook for holiday cookie baking. I know there are some people out there who have the time to create perfect cookie-cutter reindeer that are iced with four different colors and have noses that somehow actually glow. I just don’t know a single one of them personally. Everyone I know wants to make really delicious cookies that people will appreciate for their taste, not their presentation.
With that in mind, I asked Anna to come up with her idea for an appealing holiday cookie tray with a variety of cookies that require no fuss to make. She chose these five cookies from her book.
Hermit Bars that have seasonal spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves in them. (pictured top, right)
S’mores Chocolate Chip Cookies, Anna’s spin on two favorite treats put into one.
Cranberry, White Chip and Ginger Cookie Bark with nuts, chocolate chips, dried cranberries and candied ginger in them. (pictured bottom, right)
Chipotle Beer Brittle for something unexpected.
Jalapeno and Cranberry Biscotti for a twist on a treat to dip in your coffee.
I would add the Spicy Chocolate Ginger Guys and the Ten-at-a-Time Cookies for a little kid appeal, and I think this is a holiday cookie tray that people will love. And, no one will feel guilty for eating a cookie that they know took you 10 minutes to decorate.
If you’re about to embark on baking your Christmas cookies or other holiday cookies, grab a copy of “The Daily Cookie” for some fresh ideas to add a new treat or two your usual creations. The book would also make a perfect gift for someone who loves to cook or bake.
If you’d like to know more about Anna and her “The Daily Cookie” cookbook, you can catch her tomorrow evening on a Google+ Hangout sponsored by Bakespace. She’ll be the special guest on the Kitchen Party Hangout, How to Organize and Bake Awesome Holiday Cookies that will be live on Dec. 6, 8 p.m. EST.
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